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Portions of forest to get beetle-fighting effort through farm bill

110721_beetleCHICKASAW COUNTY – A battle against a growing southern pine beetle infestation in Mississippi’s Tombigbee National Forest will be fought by the U.S. Forest Service using designations authorized in the 2014 farm bill.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) yesterday officially designated portions of the Tombigbee National Forest as a landscape-scale insect and disease treatment area that is subject to expedited environmental and administrative requirements.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the designation of the Trace Unit of the Tombigbee National Forest in Chickasaw County allows the USFS to work with state and private landowners to develop and implement restoration projects to overcome insect or disease threats.

“We specifically crafted reforms in the farm bill to allow agencies like the Forest Service to be more responsive to these threats. I am optimistic that these new efforts will help stop the southern pine beetle outbreak in the Tombigbee National Forest and adjacent private lands, and assist in protecting Mississippi’s valuable timber industry” Cochran said.

The designation of the landscape-scale project was requested by Gov. Phil Bryant as part of the process established in the 2014 farm bill that amended the Health Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to improve the pace and scale of the insect and disease treatment projects in affected forests.

The Tombigbee National Forest designation is part of an announcement that includes the designation of treatment areas nationwide encompassing 45.6 million acres in 94 national forest areas in 35 states.

The USFS indicated that nearly 30,000 acres of the Trace Unit are currently at risk of southern pine beetle infestation based on forest stand types, forest condition and the 2012 National Insect and Disease Risk Map of the area.

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